Off the Beaten Track - Discussing the mystic number 108 with Mandar Pitale, Head -Treasury (SBM Bank India)
You will often find the number 108 referenced in numerous spiritual and scientific discussions. Together, let’s decipher why this number is so important.
All things in our universe are constantly in a state of motion (vibration.) Even objects thatappear to be stationary are in fact vibrating, oscillating, resonating at various frequencies. As such, at every scale, all of nature vibrates.
Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation states that every particle attracts every other particle in the universe, with force directly proportional to the product of the mass and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.Simply put, everything on the surface of the Earth is subject to a force of attraction while resonating at different levels of intensities with various terrestrial bodies (grahas) in space.
There is a distinct connection between the number 108 with 3 important terrestrial bodies: the Sun, the Moon and the Earth:
• The distance between the Earth and the Sun is approximately 108 times the diameter of the Sun
• The distance between the Earth and the Moon is approximately 108 times the diameter of the Moon
• The diameter of the Sun is approximately 108 times the diameter of the Earth
In Vedic astrology, the Sun (masculine energy) is the catalyst (karaka) for the soul (aatma) and duty (dharma.) The zodiac’s 360 degrees are divided into 12 signs (raashi) – each spanning 30 degrees. Each raashi is further sub-divided into 9 segments of 3 degrees and 20 minutes each called the navamsa (ninth share) which shows the inherent qualities of the soul: duty (dharma), fate (bhagya) and the native’s spouse. 9 amsha times 12 signs (9 x 12) is 108. Thus, there are 108 navamsa in the zodiac.
The Moon (feminine energy) is the catalyst (karaka) for the mind and governs asterisms (nakshatra.) There is a total of 27 nakshatra and each nakshatra has 4 segments (nakshatra pada.) These 4 nakshatra pada relate to 4 important goals in life: Duty/deeds (dharma/karma), meaning (artha), pleasure (kama) and family as well as liberation (Moksha) and spirituality. A planet’s placement in a specific pada can activate the tone of the pada to matters governed by the planet. 4 nakshatra pada times 27 nakshatra (4 x 27) is 108. Thus, the Moon has 108 nakshatra pada.
108 is the number where the nakshatra pada influenced by the Moon and the navamsa influenced by the Sun align (converge) within 360 degrees of the zodiac. Therefore, 108 is the number that aligns the mind (Moon) and the soul (Sun), which also shows the alignment of Siva and Parvati (union of purush and prakriti) and thus the process of procreation.
The Sun and the Moon are connected to the Earth by approximately 108 times their own diameter as aforementioned. When one looks at the Sun and the Moon from the Earth, they are perceived as the same size, this illusion appears because of their distance. Although the Sun is 400 times bigger than the Moon, they are perceived similarly by the division of 108 times their own diameter. This just physically reveals that the purusha (Sun) and prakriti (Moon) are using the vibration frequency of 108 to create and maintain life as it is on the Earth.
It is the vibration of the purusha and prakriti, that have manifested us into existence. It is the secret key that will allow us to awaken, manipulate or transcend our existence. It is a powerful force that can do anything. Both the branches of tantra shastra (the bright and the dark) tap into this force.
All other lists of 108 unfold from this procreative force. For example, in Ayurveda, there are 108 marma bindus or acupressure points in the body. They are points with the power to heal or kill a living being when activated. They are the points where consciousness connects with the body - representing the convergence of purusha (masculine energy) into prakriti (feminine energy.)
Other examples: Sun salutations (Surya Namaskars) are often performed across nine sets of 12 postures (totalling 108.) The anahata or heart chakra is the fourth primary chakra among the seven chakras (seven wheels of energy in the body.) In Sanskrit, anahata means "unhurt, unstruck, and unbeaten." Anahata is associated with balance, calmness, and serenity. Anahata is a bridge between the lower and upper chakras integrating the manifest with the spiritual. Yogic literature says that 108 energy lines (in Sanskrit they are known as the nadis responsible for the flow of energy in the body) converge in heart chakra.
The ultimate objective of human birth is to progress from the material self to a higher, spiritual self. The number 108 reflects the distance between the material and the spiritual self. That is why one complete cycle of chanting any mantra gets accomplished when the mantra is chanted 108 times because each chant is believed to bring the sadhaka or practitioner, one unit closer to the spiritual self within. On completion of one cycle of the 108 chants, the material self momentarily touches the spiritual self. The phenomenon has a significant influence on the process of creation, sustenance and decay of living and non-living beings on Earth.